Dr. William (Bill) Seymour, PhD
Retired President, Cleveland State Community College
Bill Seymour is the former president of Cleveland State Community College, where he served for nine years. As campus CEO, he led a comprehensive community college serving Bradley, Polk, Meigs, McMinn, and Monroe counties in Southeast Tennessee. He retired from this position on June 30, 2022. He now serves as a subject matter expert for NCII.
Cleveland State was selected by the College System of Tennessee (TBR) as the 2019 College of the Year. In 2021, Bill received the Shirley B. Gordon Award for Distinction, the highest award for community college presidents presented by Phi Theta Kappa. In 2022, he was named by the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) as a finalist for the CEO of the Year Award.
Bill previously served at Jackson State Community College in West Tennessee as vice president for institutional advancement and vice president for student services. He served as president of Lambuth University and was instrumental in transitioning that college to the University of Memphis.
Bill is originally from Dansville, New York, where he attended SUNY at Oswego, receiving a bachelor’s degree in psychology. He received his master’s degree in education, specializing in counseling and personnel services, and his doctorate in higher and adult education from the University of Missouri. Bill is also a graduate of the Institute for Educational Management at the Harvard University Graduate School of Education.
Bill has been an educator in Tennessee for 27 years of his 43-year professional career in higher education. In addition to his time in West Tennessee, he previously served as vice president for 15 years at Maryville College. He has been married to his wife Catherine for 40 years and has two daughters and six grandchildren.
Founding Partner, Next Chapter Communications
Andrea is a communications strategist with more than 25 years’ experience developing communications strategies, branding and naming organizations, crafting messages, and managing all kinds of communications projects. She has extensive experience with community colleges and organizations that support them, including AACC, CCCSE, JFF, Complete College America, and NCII.
Before starting Next Chapter, Andrea was senior vice president at KSA-Plus Communications. She also has directed communications for the United Negro College Fund and other nonprofit organizations. Andrea graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with honors. She holds a bachelor’s degree in a self-designed major that combines communications, marketing, and psychology.
Community Engagement and Strategy
Director of Talent Hubs, CivicLab
Dakota is the director of Talent Hubs with CivicLab. In this role, he serves exemplary cross-sector partnerships focused on postsecondary attainment that have met rigorous standards for partnership health, equity, and systems change. He brings his expertise in postsecondary education, collective impact, stakeholder engagement, and change management to a network of nearly 100 partnerships, supporting their efforts to improve the human condition. Dakota also hosts Lumina Foundation’s podcast Today’s Students, Tomorrow’s Talent, which features conversations with newsmakers and leaders in the field of learning after high school.
Prior to this role, Dakota was a strategy officer with Lumina Foundation, a senior district administrator at Chicago Public Schools, founder and executive director of a teacher preparation nonprofit, university program administrator, and music teacher. He holds degrees in education and public administration, and he lives with his wife Dr. Colleen Pawlicki and dog Otis in Indianapolis.
Abner Oakes, MA
National Director of Outreach & Engagement, Institute for Student Achievement
At the Institute for Student Achievement (ISA), Abner is the national director of outreach and engagement and helps create schools that change students’ lives. Previously, he worked at the Alliance for Excellent Education, focused on improving outcomes for historically underserved students. He also worked at the educational technology company JumpRope, the Center for Comprehensive School Reform and Improvement, and the professional development provider Modern Red SchoolHouse. He spent eight years partnering with Winner (South Dakota) School District, helping the district improve outcomes for its Native American students. He started his career teaching middle and high school students.
“ISA is an organization focused on equity, on improved outcomes for all students,” states Abner, “And it’s exactly the kind of work I left the classroom to do, almost 25 years ago.” After earning a bachelor’s degree at Dartmouth College, he received a master’s degree from Middlebury College’s Bread Loaf School of English. He and his wife Laura Jewett live in Bethesda, MD; their son Charlie attends college in Portland, OR.
Student Financial Stability
Priyadarshini Chaplot, MBA
Vice President of Strategy, National Center for Inquiry & Improvement
Priya has worked in higher education for 20 years and is passionate about how institutions can support the whole student by design, not just by chance. Her work helps colleges advance redesign efforts such as guided pathways, with a particular emphasis on how embedding student financial stability efforts (addressing basic needs and affordability) can enable students to maximize their educational experiences. In addition to working directly with faculty, staff, and administrators, she also develops practitioner-focused guides and resources, such as NCII’s Student Financial Stability Resource Series.
Before joining NCII in 2013, Priya served as director of professional development and senior researcher at the Research and Planning Group for California Community Colleges; prior to that, Priya was an institutional researcher and instructor (and proud student!) at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, California. Priya earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of California, Berkeley, and a master’s degree in business administration from California Polytechnic University, Pomona. She is based in New York City.
Workforce and Employer Engagement
James Jacobs, PhD
President Emeritus, Macomb Community College
James Jacobs assumed the presidency of Macomb Community College on July 1, 2008. Prior to his appointment, Jim concurrently served as director for the Center for Workforce Development and Policy at the college and as associate director, Community College Research Center (CCRC), Teachers College, Columbia University, where he currently serves as a research affiliate.
Jim earned a doctorate from Princeton University and has more than 40 years’ experience at Macomb. He has taught social science, political science, and economics. He specializes in the areas of workforce skills and technology, economic development, worker retraining, and community college workforce development, and he is widely published in these areas of expertise. In addition, Jim has conducted research, developed programs, and consulted on workforce development and community college issues at the national, state, and local levels.
Jim is a past president of the National Council for Workforce Education, a national post-secondary organization of occupational education and workforce development specialists. He was also a member of the Community College Advisory Panel to the Educational Testing Service in Princeton, NJ, and served on the board of the Global Corporate College, which provided consistent, just-in-time employee development to support business priorities across multiple time zones, locations, and languages through a network of U.S. community colleges and universities.
Jim serves on several local boards, including the Center for Automotive Research, Metropolitan Affairs Council, Detroit Institute of Arts, United Way for Southeastern Michigan, and Advancing Macomb. He is widely known for the Macomb County Economic Forecast, which he has presented annually for more than 30 years for the coalition of county’s chambers of commerce. Currently Jim is a senior advisor to the Ralph Wilson Foundation and lecturer at the University of Michigan School of Education.